The Taming ofthe Shrew, written by William Shakespeare, is a dark comedy believed to have been composed in the late 1590’s and it is just one of many that are categorized as Shakespeare’s “Problem Plays”. The divide between male and female characters and the roles they take on are enforced throughout the play, and the divide between Katherine and Bianca’s ideologies inforce the idea that a woman should have to act a certain way to be worthy of affection and respect (the “ideal woman”), which Bianca personifies. Katherine, in contrast, is called a “shrew” due to her outspoken nature and non-compliance. Comparing the beliefs that the characters in Taming ofthe Shrew have to the beliefs we hold today in the 21 century, I don’t believe Taming ofthe Shrew has any cultural relevance.
The term “Problem Plays”, was created by F. S. Boas for his book, Shakespeare and his Predecessors, which was written in 1896. The Taming ofthe Shrew is regarded as such due to its depictions of women and their societal position. This is displayed by scenes in which Petruchio is outright abusive to Katherine, for example, when he deprives her of food and sleep after marrying her. Katherine.
I am starved from food, dizzy from lack of sleep, kept awake by swearing and fed by fighting (IV.iii.9-10) While the original viewers of the play may not have seen Petruchio’s punishments as unreasonable or even abusive, modern audiences have had no problem with diagnosing Petruchio’s actions as inhumane. Petruchio thinks that he can forcibly make Katherine obedient and act how a woman “should”. By pursuing this only through cruel methods, this makes him the main example of personified sexism in the play, yet, most (if not all) men express some form of sexism in this play.
Even Lucentio, who has gone to great lengths to woo Bianca is willing to place a bet on her obedience. Throughout the play, we see how women in the Elizabethan era are domineered by the men in their lives. To Baptista, Kate and Bianca are just a medium of exchange, and Petruchio only agrees to marry Katherine for the dowry. In act five, scene two, the men place bets on how obedient their wives are.
Each husband has great confidence that their wives will obey their commands, but as each request is rejected, the husbands are mocked and jeered by other guests and become bashful, further displaying how wives were expected to be compliant in the 1500’s.